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CCS approves needed positions

By JOYANNA LOVE/ Senior Staff Writer

The Chilton County Board of Education approved posting three positions to address immediate needs at its Sept. 17 meeting.

Two positions will be paid for out of local funds to decrease the number of students a teacher is working with.

These were a teacher for Maplesville High School to split a 10th grade class and an English Language Learners teacher. A paraprofessional for a special education classroom at Clanton Intermediate will also be hired.

During the work session, MHS Principal John Howard said the school anticipated up to 30 students in 10th grade. There are 40 students. The school had already anticipated splitting the classes for math and science. However, the unexpected increase in students now requires the class to be split.

Schedules would be shuffled to ensure the position was full-time.

“I am at the bare minimum of high school teacher units,” Howard said. “If I had one less teacher, we could not have high school. It has been difficult to split them because I don’t have any teachers left.”

Teacher units determines how many teaching positions the state will fund and is based on the previous school year’s enrollment numbers.

Superintendent Jason Griffin said if “a quality English Language Arts teacher” could not be found he had spoken with a retired ELA teacher who would consider helping the school out on a contract basis.

The motion for the ELL teacher passed 6 to 1. Board President Brian Jackson, Vice President Jaqueline Sullivan, Lori Patterson, Keith Moore, Chris Smith and Angie Sanderson voted in favor. Pam Price voted against.

The position would be for someone with less than three years of experience.

During the work session prior to the voting session, Price asked if the department could not use another option, such as they had done for some of the Jemison schools.

EL Director Pam Bearden said she had tried this at Chilton County High School, and “it was an epic fail.”

She has offered accommodation in her core subject English class so EL students can do the classwork.

“For the elementary school, you cannot group first and second grades together,” Bearden said.

She said the grouping worked for older grades because they could be grouped 7-8 and 9-12.

Students in middle school have a more difficult time testing out, Bearden said, mostly because “they hate the test or they refuse to take the test.”

She said the test also places a higher importance on writing than on comprehensions, requiring EL students “to write better than English-only students.”

“The teachers we have are doing a great job,” Bearden said.

Last year, 156 kindergarten to sixth students were at the top two levels of scoring.

She stressed it was important to have someone with an English as a Second Language degree.

“There are very few of us around, because you have to have a content degree plus a master’s in ESL,” Bearden said.

Price said she would like to have a teacher with a foreign language degree in Spanish to be able to translate for teachers when they need help communicating with students.

“I think those students would feel more comfortable with somebody that can help them out that can speak their language, and the teachers and the principals I know,” Price said. “… My heart goes to them the teachers and the students.”

“There are fewer people (teachers) out there who know another language,” Bearden said. “I know everybody is thinking if we could talk to them in Spanish, we can teach them English —that is not how that works and it is also not how the state wants us to do it.”

Bearden said English needs to be learned similarly to how they learned their first language.

“There is no easy fix,” Bearden said.

Her goal is for EL teachers to be able to see students three to four times a week.

Having education students work with EL students and possibly high school students are also being explored.

The motion to look for another paraprofessional was unanimously approved.

“It is not an overrun class but the needs are overrun,” Special Education Director Michelle Coppedge said. “We are behaviorally in a not good place … Parents are asking for an aide.”

She said this is the only classroom with five students with similar physical and behavioral needs that does not have two aides.